Joe Smith: County Commissioners Should Join School Board Members In Creating Balanced Budget - And Response (3)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

 After  the County Commission vote last week in a very close 5 to 4 vote a tax increase for schools was rejected. I really like what Commissioner Smedley said after her no vote when she claimed the School Board and County Commission need to work together to come up with a balanced budget using the funds we know are available.

I later received a text from Commissioner Boyd reminding me the commission now expected a balance budget be returned to them. Further, Commissioner Martin shared from his heart that this decision was a very difficult one  for him personally and, even though he opposed a tax increase,  he claimed he felt there may be other ways to create funding for schools. 

Every one of these commissioners are my friends and for 30 years at one time or another many of them have supported my ministries to kids. On this particular issue we disagreed and that’s ok . They all remain very esteemed by me and they remain my friends. I know all of these guys' hearts and I know they each want to do the very best for all kids, families and taxpayers in Hamilton County. That’s just the kind of folks they are.

Putting together a balanced budget must now happen and it’s not an easy task. Obviously the School Board presented what we felt like is needed to continue to improve and be the best district in Tennessee. That vote was seven for and two opposed and we brought that to our county commissioners. The budget proposal and our idea was rejected. That’s how government works so we must now craft a balanced budget based on our projected revenues.

I would welcome a meeting and detailed discussion together with the School Board and the County Commission and together we decide what things need to go away in that $34 million ask or what cuts may be made in other areas that we combine or reconfigure to make it more cost effective  and be balanced.  Let’s lay aside conservative vs. liberal ideology and forget about UnifiEd, who is in my opinion totally irrelevant anyway. Perhaps the millions of dollars they have spent with calls, emails, knocking on doors, etc. to push their agenda could have gone a long way on helping us meet some of the needs we have in our schools because none of their efforts have had any influence on my support of the budget. 

For the record and as a matter of fact, we (the board and staff) have been talking about many of these things in our budget proposal for three years when we began work on our Future Ready 2023 Strategic Plan. UnifiEd was not even heard of by the board at that time and this was long before their Apex report was made public that my friend Rhonda Thurmond and I publicly exposed when it was made public as an unfair document that was not and could not be supported by the huge majority of citizens in Hamilton County in many areas that the Apex document demanded.   

Let’s together (School Board and commissioners) develop a common sense workable, reasonable balanced budget for our school district. Let’s all completely lay aside our own personal agenda and political ideology. It’s ok for folks to disagree but at the end of the day compromise, as long as that compromise does not impair obedience to Godly values. That would seem like good government . 

I think both commissioners and school board members want the same thing and that is the very  best for our kids and at the same time being fiscally responsible and transparent. We can do this. I would hope we would all agree on some things and disagree on others and all the while respect one another opinions without devaluing each other.

We are HAMILTON and we can do this together. Our young people in Hamilton County are watching us - make no mistake about that. Let’s demonstrate to them we know how to agree to disagree on some things, compromise on others,  lay politics aside, and keep the great academic achievements going that will soon be revealed. 

May we continue with the best morale and momentum we have had probably in two decades (since merger) in our schools all across the district and attack our long list of capital needs that will soon be completed and made public and priorities recommended by those experts. We probably need to combine some schools and close some others and rezone throughout the district.  If we will do some or maybe all of these things we can become the best public school system in Tennessee. 

Without question we have the best leadership in HCDE in over two decades. I would encourage we all step out on the waters of faith and support Dr Johnson. This ain’t home we are just passing through so may we all just purpose to love on each other and find somebody else love on even during those times we don’t agree.

Joe Smith
School Board District 3

* * * 

School Board Member Joe Smiith,

That is interesting.  

You write, “Let’s lay aside conservative vs. liberal ideology and forget about UnifiEd, who is in my opinion totally irrelevant anyway.” 

Then you write, “Perhaps the millions of dollars they have spent with calls, emails, knocking on doors, etc. to push their agenda could have gone a long way on helping us meet some of the needs we have in our schools because none of their efforts have had any influence on my support of the budget.”

Those statements are riddled with conflicting perspectives.  To state that UnifiEd is insignificant, yet spent millions to impose a $34 million property tax increase on we the mere villagers is perplexing.

I never saw you in attendance at the commission meetings during the property tax debate. Perhaps if you attended, you would now view the UnifiEd’s lobby as relevant.  

For the record, it is not UnifiEd as you well know.  It is the puppet masters or people behind the foundation curtains that moved County Mayor Coppinger, Chip Baker, and others.  I didn’t just get off the turnip truck.  The foundation nonprofit cash leads to many political places.

I recall from your last letter, you proclaimed we the people were supposed to “Render unto Caesar (Hamilton County) $34 million.”

No thanks, said our best county commissioners to the  $34 million property tax increase. People that oppose the tax increase are also Christians. 

Bottom line, we the people through our elected representation rejected your tax increase, so just balance the budget like you were directed to. Surely, the HCDE can manage with an additional $19.5 million in grow revenue.

The HCDE has an additional $19.5 million to work with.  Mr. Smith, start acting like a Republican and live within the budget constraints.

Telling Republicans and conservatives that an excessively funded radical campaign group called UnifiEd is irrelevant is irresponsible. I understand that is the view you and our last term County Mayor Coppinger share   I guess that is a comfy position to take in your Hixson district, and from a last term county mayor.

I feel compelled to be truthful and tell Republicans and conservatives they must rise up big, be partisan, and continue to nip property the tax increases in the bud for wasteful purpose at HCDE.  

Yes, rise up conservatives. Let’s take the school board back from the liberals Kathy Lennon, et al.

April Eidson

* * *

School Board Member Joe Smith,

From your article it appears that you and others need help in balancing the school budget. The school board members helped the superintendent draft it and now it’s time to bite the bullet and begin deleting all the overhead. 

From my standpoint the budget was in Greek. After going through it and listening to its defenders, the items listed in the budget did not appear to be what we were told. Several items were so generic in nature that the public had no idea what the money was for. I felt that the budget was prepared to confuse the public. Every day a defender promoted an item in the budget which didn’t appear to be listed.

For example, one Opinion writer in the TFP said the budget was to provide transportation for students to attend schools out of their district which had the program they wanted to study. I didn’t see anything in the budget to cover that program. Someone stated it covered literacy teachers. If that’s the case, why were there so many general positions listed? Why didn’t the budget list those titles along with numbers?   

At a meeting the question was asked if certain general positions would be in the classroom. The answer was, they will be in the building. 

Joe, it looks like the school board doesn’t understand the budget. Maybe it should be educated on it and then perhaps you’ll know where to cut. I presume the cut will begin with the teacher’s raises.  The public has approved teachers’ raises in the past only to find out that very few teachers received them, but the Central Office did. 

The school board has failed the county. It thought taxpayers would just write a huge check and move on. The people have spoken and let it be known that we want transparency and accountability.  We don’t write blank checks for anyone.

Mary Lou Vaught

* * *

School Board members, please allow me to add something to your comments at the recent school board meeting. 

You were hired by voters to work for our children. During the campaign season candidates expressed lofty ideas such as yours that touted we want our children to have a better chance. I do not recall any candidates running on a platform that called for a massive tax increase. All of you simply stated ideas such as "I just think their is a better way" or as you continuously express I want all the children to have a chance for a better education which is what all responsible adult parents want.
Herein lies our problem and that is parental responsibility. No tax increase is going solve this. 
We voters were apparently naive to think this young new class of upcoming leaders somehow had an answer to what we already knew and that was the parents were failing their children and also that you already knew throwing money at the problem was not the answer however that assumption was wrong.
So now enter the grownups to wrestle with this problem again. Here are a couple of tips 
First remove UnifiEd as your source to structure education needs. These people have an agenda and it does not reflect wholesome Tennessee values whether you want to admit it or not.
Secondly identify why every generation until now was able to read at third grade level at  the appropriate time. This explanation is very simple, remove political correctness as a convenient excuse to not resolve the concern in the first place. If you can't figure it out then again simply defer to the grownups we'll make it happen then perhaps hopefully sooner rather than later you'll see the wisdom of "it's my way or the highway".
Now I know this short sermon will not provide all the answers as some of you all have done a remarkable job rearing your children and that feat was accomplished because you personally dedicated your talents and energies as responsible parents.
Lastly your maturity must rise up against the temptation to behave as you have these last few days. Ms. Lennon trotting out all of these portrayals of gloom and doom and attempting to characterize Commissioners as evil because of following the wishes of their districts to negate a tax increase is well quite childish. Their were several polls that did not support a tax increase but you chose to pull one outdated as it was to present your case because sixty two percent of 400 or 248 respondents supported your tax increase, that dear is not even one tenth of a percent of our population in Hamilton County.  
Ms. Hill your remarks telling commissioners that they are not your boss sounded childish and bitter. We the taxpayer who are the boss of both of you are the funding mechanism and will not tolerate this type of behavior.
An olive branch was extended to the school board. Learn how to work with it and make it grow, if you can't figure it out simply step aside and another will take your place.

Ron Ray

Lookout Valley

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